In this study, Abraham Smith introduces the nature, history, and interventions of two theoretical-political cultural productions: Black/Africana studies (the systematic and rigorous study of Africa and African descendants) and Black/Africana biblical studies (a biblical studies’ subfield that analyzes and appraises the strategies of reception and the historical and contemporary impact of the Christian bible for people of African descent). Both cultural productions were formally introduced in U.S. educational institutions in the late 1960s as a part of the Black Freedom movement. Both have long and deep intellectual antecedents on the one hand and ever-evolving recent interventions that challenge a narrow politics of identity on the other. Through the interrogation of keywords (such as race, family, and Hip Hop or cartographies, canons, and contexts), moreover, the study examines how these two theoretical-political projects question the settled epistemologies or prevailing intellectual currencies of their respective times.
Abraham Smith, Ph.D. (1989), Vanderbilt University, is Professor of New Testament at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. In addition to his most recent monograph, Mark: Shaping the Life and Legacy of Jesus (Bloomsbury, 2017), he has co-edited Semeia journal volumes (83/84, 1998) on slavery (Slavery in Text and Interpretation) and published many essays and articles on Cultural Studies and African American Biblical Criticism.
I find S.’s work compelling. It is very learned and is presented with meticulous attention to detail. I suggest it is vitally important for biblical studies to embrace this field and to allow it to become more central—not just as a way of readjusting power structures which marginalised Black/Africana perspectives in the field, but also because it is a useful hermeneutical tool for analysing power dynamics in texts. After all, who is the Bible for? Our field so desperately needs more diversity, so this is a welcome arrival.
Katherine E. Southwood, SOTS Review
Black/Africana Studies and Black/Africana Biblical Studies Abraham Smith